Showing posts with label california. Show all posts
Showing posts with label california. Show all posts

Monday, November 5, 2018

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  • Monday, November 5, 2018

Wine Picks LCBO VINTAGES Release Nov. 10, 2018: California + Rioja



LCBO Wine Picks: November 10, 2018 VINTAGES Release
The parade of premium wines continues with the LCBO VINTAGES Release that features coveted and iconic California wines as its main theme, while the mini-theme features classic gems from Rioja. All of these wines will be on LCBO VINTAGES shelves across Ontario this .

We'll begin with main theme that features fifteen of some of California's most coveted and iconic wines, four of which are included among my top wine picks. From the whites, both are high-end Chardonnay. One is from Beringer, California's oldest continually operating winery (founded in 1876), while the other from a specialist in Sonoma Chardonnay - Kistler Vineyards. Among the reds, there is a lovely Pinot Noir from Flowers Vineyards & Winery, as well as a Napa Cab from Joseph Phelps that is actually a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 7% Petit Verdot.

Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay 2016 (93 pts)Flowers Pinot Noir 2016 (92 pts)

The mini-theme features only seven wines from Rioja (Spain), but four are include among my top wine recommendations. First up is the lone white that is made with the Viura (aka Macabeo) grape and can be aged for at least another 5 years. The red wines include some stellar mature wines from 1996, 2005, and 2009. The '96 is a blend of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo, while the '05 is a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 5% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo. Lastly, the '09 is 100% Tempranillo.

Wine blends among my top red wine picks include the Saint-Roch that is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 10% Carignan, while the Madiran is a blend of 80% Tannat and 20% Cabernet Franc from 40-50 year old vines. From Rhône, the '15 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, while the '16 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a made with 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah, 10% Counoise, and 5% Cinsault. From Tuscany, the Luce is a 50/50 blend of Sangiovese and Merlot, while the baby Ornellaia is a blend of 44% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, and 12% Cabernet Franc.

Luce 2015 (91 pts)Cave Spring Indian Summer Riesling 2016 (90 pts)

Among my white wine picks, the Marsannay is made with Chardonnay, while the Muscadet is made with Melon de Bourgogne from old vines that average 80-years-old. If you like your wines with some sweetness, the Niagara Riesling is your best bet. Moving on to dessert wines, the Cave Spring Riesling is a Late Harvest and along with the Tokaj are the least sweetest of the bunch. Both the Vidal Icewine and the Botrytis Semillon are lusciously sweet dessert wines.

Enjoy my top wine recommendations from this Release! Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • CHÂTEAU SAINT-ROCH CHIMÈRES 2016 - AP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, France (#119354) (D) - $17.00
  • LA TREMENDA MONASTRELL 2016 - DO Alicante, Spain (#490011) (XD) - $17.95
  • SALENTEIN RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2016 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#578179) (XD) - $18.95
  • GÉRARD BERTRAND GRAND TERROIR LES ASPRES SYRAH / MOURVÈDRE / GRENACHE 2015 - AP Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres, France (#413245) (XD) - $18.95
  • CHÂTEAU PEYROS VIEILLES VIGNES MADIRAN 2013 - AC, Southwest, France (#234997) (XD) - $19.95

  • FEUDO MONTONI LAGNUSA NERO D’AVOLA 2015 - DOC Sicilia, Italy (#523738) (XD) - $23.95
  • MONTECILLO GRAN RESERVA 2009 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#239277) (XD) - $29.95
  • DOMAINE DE LA SOLITUDE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2015 - AC, Rhône, France (#560987) (XD) - $41.95
  • VIÑA TONDONIA RESERVA 2005 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#356337) (XD) - $49.95
  • URBINA GRAN RESERVA 1996 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#355743) (XD) - $54.95

  • LE SERRE NUOVE DELL’ORNELLAIA 2016 - DOC Bolgheri Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (#606194) (XD) - $64.95
  • FLOWERS PINOT NOIR 2016 - Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California, USA (#215202) (XD) - $64.95  92 pts  wine review
  • CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2016 - AC, Rhône, France (#711317) (XD) - $93.95
  • LUCE 2015 - IGT Toscana, Italy (#685263) (XD) - $114.95  91 pts  wine review
  • JOSEPH PHELPS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#189795) (XD) - $118.95

White Wine:

  • ILOK CELLARS CLASSIC GRASEVINA 2017 - Croatia (#517474) (XD) - $14.95
  • VETIVER VIURA 2014 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#437707) (XD) - $16.95
  • GADAIS VIEILLES VIGNES MUSCADET SÈVRE ET MAINE 2015 - Sur lie, AC, Loire, France (#444406) (XD) - $17.95
  • KEN FORRESTER OLD VINE RESERVE CHENIN BLANC 2017 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#231282) (XD) - $17.95
  • PADDY BORTHWICK PINOT GRIS 2016 - Wairarapa, North Island, New Zealand (#555516) (XD) - $19.95
  • TAWSE LIMESTONE RIDGE-NORTH ESTATE BOTTLED RIESLING 2016 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#431593) (M) - $23.95
  • LOUIS LATOUR MARSANNAY BLANC 2014 - AC, Burgundy, France (#435156) (XD) - $32.95
  • BERINGER PRIVATE RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2016 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#026682) (D) - $64.95
  • KISTLER SONOMA MOUNTAIN CHARDONNAY 2016 - Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California, USA (#183921) (XD) - $107.95  93 pts  wine review

Rosé Wine:

  • MIMI EN PROVENCE GRANDE RÉSERVE ROSÉ 2017 - AP Côtes de Provence, France (#452573) (XD) - $18.95

Fortified:

  • QUINTA VALE D. MARIA VINTAGE PORT 2015 - DOP, Portugal (#582965) (S) (375 mL) - $49.95

Dessert Wine:

  • BIRO SO SWEET TOKAJ 2016 - Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary (#617324) (S) (375 mL) - $17.95
  • CAVE SPRING INDIAN SUMMER RIESLING 2016 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#415901) (S) (375 mL) - $24.95  90 pts  wine review
  • DE BORTOLI NOBLE ONE BOTRYTIS SEMILLON 2016 - New South Wales, Australia (#917252) (S) (375 mL) - $29.95
  • SOUTHBROOK ORGANIC VIDAL ICEWINE 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#581165) (S) (375 mL) - $49.95


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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  • Wednesday, July 18, 2018

J. Lohr October Night Chardonnay 2015 (California) - Wine Review

wine is a frequent visitor to the LCBO, and mostly recently arrived in LCBO VINTAGES on . You can still find this yummy white wine in the VINTAGES section at your local LCBO.

Produced by a well-known Californian winery, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines was formed in the early 1970's when founder Jerry Lohr chose Monterey County's Arroyo Seco district for its cool, windy climate and rocky soils, which are ideal for Chardonnay. The establishment and growth of J. Lohr Vineyards & Winery resulted in the emergence of Central Coast as a world-class winegrowing region, with Jerry Lohr recognized as one of the region's pioneers.

The vineyards for this white wine are located in J. Lohr's Block 9 plantings in the Arroyo Seco AVA of Monterey County, near the mouth of the Arroyo Seco River in a slightly more wind-protected environment. The loamy soils are laden with "Greenfield potatoes" - stones that resemble potatoes in size and appearance.

J. Lohr October Night Chardonnay 2015 (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

J. LOHR OCTOBER NIGHT CHARDONNAY 2015 - Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, California, USA (#225375) (XD) - $34.95
Aged in French barrels (50% new) sur lie for 10 months. Baked apple with hints of vanilla and smoke aromas from the cork. Pours a fairly deep yellow gold colour. The ripe medium+ intensity nose has aromas of baked apple, sweet vanilla oak, and tropical fruit notes with hints of yellow floral and marzipan. It's medium-full bodied on the sweet-edged palate with more baked apple and vanilla flavours, with bracing acids and some warmth on the mid-palate. Some toffee aromas and butterscotch flavours appear with time. Touch oxidative and bitter on the long finish. Best with a light chill. Score: 88 pts


Monday, November 20, 2017

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  • Monday, November 20, 2017

VINTAGES Release Nov. 25, 2017: California Wines for Holiday Wish Lists

LCBO Wine Picks from November 25, 2017 VINTAGES Release
The next release into LCBO VINTAGES on is a mono-thematic release featuring top California wines for holiday wish lists. All of these wines will be on LCBO VINTAGES shelves across Ontario this coming . This is the second to last release of 2017, and it's a thick one, so you'll want to begin stocking up for the holidays from this release and the past few releases in October and November.

We'll begin with the main theme that features top wines from California. Most of the seventeen wines listed in this thematic will provide enjoyment, but I have limited my selection to four top wines. This includes the mountain vineyard blend from The Hess Collection which contains 61% Malbec, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Petit Verdot/Syrah, while the flagship wine from Stags' Leap is made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. In white wines from California, the Grgich Chardonnay is always delicious every year, while the Kistler Chardonnay comes from their mountain vineyards that range in elevation from 800 to 1700 feet above sea level.

Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2013 (92 pts)

From my red wine picks from the rest of this release, the Crianza is made with 100% Tempranillo, while the Faithful Hound from South Africa is faithfully made with 32% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 16% Malbec, and 7% Petit Verdot. The Chianti Classico is also a blend and consists of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino, and 10% Pugnitello. From France there are a pair of GSM-blends - the La Ferme du Mont wine is composed of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre, while the Tessellae Old Vines is made with 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre. Also from France, the Crozes-Hermitage is 100% Syrah, while the "Vin de France" Xavier wine from Rhône consists of almost 100% Mourvèdre. On the local front, the Stratus Red is predominantly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with Syrah, Sangiovese, Malbec, and Tannat added to complete the final blend.

San Felice Chianti Classico 2015 (88+ pts)La Ferme Du Mont Première Côte Côtes du Rhône 2015 (88+ pts)

Among my white wine picks, the Antinori white from Umbria and the Montagny from Burgundy are both made with Chardonnay. For sweet wine lovers, you should pick up any of the Rieslings from either Ontario or Germany.

Henri de Villamont Montagny 1er Cru 2014 (91 pts)Fritz Willi Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium Riesling Feinherb 2015 (89 pts)

The sparkling wines found among my wine recommendations are all on the dry side. The Desiderius Pongrácz Sparkling Wine and the Drappier Champagne are both blends of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, while the Moët & Chandon Rosé Champagne is a blend of 46% Pinot Noir (of which 20% is red wine), 32% Chardonnay, and 22% Pinot Meunier. Meanwhile, the Cuvée Catharine Blanc de Blanc is made with 100% Chardonnay.

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc de Blanc 2012 (91 pts)

Enjoy my top wine picks from this Release! Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • VIÑA OLABARRI CRIANZA 2013 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#461277) (XD) - $14.95
  • LA FERME DU MONT PREMIÈRE CÔTE CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2015 - Unfiltered, AP, France (#251645) (XD) - $17.95  88+ pts  reviewed here
  • TESSELLAE OLD VINES GRENACHE/SYRAH/MOURVÈDRE CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON 2015 - AC, Midi, France (#343517) (XD) - $18.95
  • SAN FELICE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2015 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#282996) (XD) - $19.95  88+ pts  reviewed here
  • ZUCCARDI Q CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Gualtallary & La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#140855) (XD) - $19.95
  • MULDERBOSCH FAITHFUL HOUND 2014 - WO Western Cape, South Africa (#922443) (XD) - $20.95
  • CAVE DE TAIN GRAND CLASSIQUE CROZES-HERMITAGE 2015 - AC, Rhône, France (#572230) (D) - $23.95

  • XAVIER ARCANE XV LE DIABLE 2015 - Vin de France, Rhône, France (#526301) (XD) - $29.95
  • STRATUS RED 2013 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#131037) (XD) - $48.20
  • DOMAINE DROUHIN OREGON PINOT NOIR 2014 - Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA (#961284) (XD) - $49.95  91 pts  reviewed here
  • THE HESS COLLECTION 19 BLOCK MOUNTAIN CUVÉE 2013 - Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, California, USA (#018879) (D) - $54.95
  • CA’ ROMÉ ROMANO MARENGO CERRETTA BAROLO 2011 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#000455) (XD) - $71.95
  • FUMANELLI AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2011 - DOCG, Veneto, Italy (#475053) (XD) - $72.95  92 pts  reviewed here
  • STAGS’ LEAP ESTATE THE LEAP CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA (#142844) (XD) - $99.95
Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 (91 pts)

White Wine:

  • FAZIO AEGADES GRILLO 2015 - DOC Erice, Sicily, Italy (#388637) (XD) - $17.95
  • TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#089029) (M) - $18.95
  • LAURENZ V. FRIENDLY GRÜNER VELTLINER 2015 - DAC Kamptal, Austria (#066225) (XD) - $19.95
  • CONCHA Y TORO MARQUÉS DE CASA CONCHA CHARDONNAY 2015 - Limarí Valley, Chile (#342857) (XD) - $19.95  89 pts  reviewed here
  • FRITZ WILLI FRIEDRICH-WILHELM-GYMNASIUM RIESLING FEINHERB 2015 - Qualitätswein, Mosel, Germany (#523894) (M) - $20.95  89 pts  reviewed here
  • STONELEIGH LATITUDE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2017 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#324228) (XD) - $21.95  89+ pts  reviewed here
Concha y Toro Marqués de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2015 (89 pts)Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (89+ pts)

  • BACHELDER OREGON CHARDONNAY 2014 - Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (#273334) (XD) - $24.95  90+ pts  reviewed here
  • CHARLES BAKER PICONE VINEYARD RIESLING 2014 - VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#241182) (M) - $35.20
  • HENRI DE VILLAMONT MONTAGNY 1ER CRU 2014 - AC, Burgundy, France (#522151) (XD) - $40.95  91 pts  reviewed here
  • ANTINORI CASTELLO DELLA SALA CERVARO DELLA SALA 2015 - IGT Umbria, Italy (#512376) (XD) - $59.95
  • GRGICH HILLS ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2013 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#346304) (XD) - $67.95  92 pts  reviewed here
  • KISTLER SONOMA MOUNTAIN CHARDONNAY 2015 - Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California, USA (#183921) (XD) - $107.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • DESIDERIUS PONGRÁCZ BRUT CAP CLASSIQUE SPARKLING CHARDONNAY/PINOT NOIR - Traditional method, WO Western Cape, South Africa (#404111) (XD) - $16.95
  • HENRY OF PELHAM CUVÉE CATHARINE CARTE BLANCHE ESTATE BLANC DE BLANC 2012 - Traditional method, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#315200) (XD) - $44.95  91pts  reviewed here
  • DRAPPIER MILLÉSIME EXCEPTION CHAMPAGNE 2012 - AC, France (#513895) (XD) - $74.95
  • MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT ROSÉ CHAMPAGNE 2008 - AC, France (#069831) (XD) - $98.95


Monday, November 13, 2017

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  • Monday, November 13, 2017

Buena Vista Winery Open House at Char Bar

Buena Vista Winery wine tasting at Char Bar
In , I was invited to a wine tasting at the Char No. 5 Whisky Bar located inside the Delta Hotel on Lower Simcoe Street in downtown Toronto to taste the wines from California's Buena Vista Winery. I was one of the first to arrive and had plenty of space to cozy up to the bar at the back where "The Count" was pouring the wines. After the venue was nicely filled up with patrons, The Count came out from behind the bar and began to tell us the interesting story about himself and the winery.

The story begins with Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesam, the self-proclaimed "The Count of Buena Vista", a grape-grower in his homeland of Hungary who was born into a wealthy, land-owning family and grew up amidst famed orchards and vineyards that had been in his family for centuries. In 1840, he set sail for America and settled with his family in Wisconsin, founding the town of "Szepataj" - now known as Sauk City. He was also the first to plant hops in Wisconsin, spurring the American beer industry. However, the harsh winters in Wisconsin were problematic for grape-growing, so he moved west to California and eventually settled in Sonoma in 1856 where he knew he could grow superb grapes on great terroir.

Buena Vista Winery was founded by The Count in 1857 on a converted ranch and produced 6,500 gallons in the first vintage and continued to grow and expand over the next few years. The Count inspired many others, including friend Charles Krug who borrowed a press from Buena Vista for crushing grapes in Napa Valley and helped pioneer winegrowing in that equally famous valley.

In 1861, The Count built California's first gravity-flow winery and visited Europe to study and report on methods used in the old world in order to improve Californian viniculture. Following this extensive journey with his son, he brought back thousands of vines and samples representing over 487 varieties, many of which were planted throughout the vineyards at Buena Vista Winery. Capitalizing on the knowledge gained, he authored a book which went on to become an essential handbook for California vintners.

The Count of Buena Vista
Later that decade, The Count left his prized winery and set out for Nicaragua to explore sugar growing and rum production. Unfortunately, his life ended abruptly in 1869 as he fell from a tree branch into an alligator-infested stream and was never to be heard from again. Back in Sonoma, without their visionary and widespread phylloxera setting in, Buena Vista Winery ceased production.

The winery was revived in the 1940's after the property was purchased by Frank and Antonia Bartholomew. In 2007, Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa (1812-1869), the eccentric Count of Buena Vista and California's foremost grape protagonist, was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America's Vintners Hall of Fame, where he joined the ranks of many other world-class vintners. In 2011, Buena Vista became part of Boisset Family Estates, a renowned and charismatic family with a collection of historic wineries and roots in Burgundy, France. Led in the U.S. by Jean-Charles Boisset, the family is committed to its partnership and continue the vision and legacy that The Count first created 150 years ago.

The performance was informative and a nice touch to the tasting. If you visit the winery in Sonoma,  you can enjoy the full unique experience with The Count and a light, sound and visual show. Given the compelling story of this winery, I just might make a point to visit Buena Vista on my next visit to Sonoma.

Thank you to Family Wine Merchants (FWM Canada) for the invite. Wine reviews of my favourite wines from this tasting are provided below. The Chardonnay is available in LCBO VINTAGES right now, while the two red wines will be coming through LCBO VINTAGES early next year. Please contact FWM Canada for more immediate needs or if you require large quantities.

The Count of Buena Vista

Tasting Notes:

BUENA VISTA LA VICTOIRE BRUT CHAMPAGNE - AC, France (XD)
Blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. this has fragrant yeasty, leesy, bready and pastry aromas with a clean hint of lemon waft from the glass. It's medium-bodied and quite light on its feet with balanced acids and fine mousse. The long lasting finish has a fine lemony aftertaste. Classy. Score: 90 pts

Buena Vista La Victoire Brut Champagne (90 pts)Buena Vista North Coast Chardonnay 2015 (88 pts)

BUENA VISTA NORTH COAST CHARDONNAY 2015 - California, USA (#396440) (XD) - $20.75
Very Californian on the nose with medium+ aromatics of ripe pineapple, golden apple, butter and a whiff of minerality. The palate is medium+ bodied and creamy textured with ripe fruited pear and apple flavours, plus leesy and vanillin oak accents. It has bright acids and finishes long with some bitterness. Score: 88 pts

BUENA VISTA CARNEROS PINOT NOIR 2013 - California, USA (#304105) (XD) - $28.95
Open, medium-high intensity aromas of raspberry, sweet oak spices, dark cherry and some forest floor, earth, tea leaf, white pepper are quite complex. It's medium bodied on the palate with suave tannins that are well-integrated and lovely aroma replays followed by some herbally notes. Acids are very good and balanced. Excellent finish length. Coming to VINTAGES . Score: 90 pts

Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir 2013 (90 pts)Buena Vista Chateau Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (91 pts)

BUENA VISTA CHATEAU BUENA VISTA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#539106) (XD) - $59.95
The highly aromatic nose offers a complex bouquet of currant, cassis, mint, red & black fruits, and forest floor aromas. It's full-bodied with polished tannins and very nice aroma replays on the structured palate to go along with mouth-watering acids. Some warmth on the mid-palate, but is supported well by the fleshy fruit. Excellent finish length. A big, powerful Napa Cab to enjoy now or over next 15+ years. Coming to VINTAGES . Score: 91 pts


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

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  • Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2016 (California) - Wine Review

wine is a California Chardonnay that is part of the VINTAGES Essentials collection at the LCBO, meaning it is always available in just about every VINTAGES section at LCBO outlets across Ontario.

I had the opportunity to taste the 2015 Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay earlier this year, and this 2016 vintage is the latest from Sonoma County based Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate.

The AVA for this wine is listed as California because the grapes for this wine were sourced from 4 coastal vineyards - 47% Monterey, 30% Santa Barbara, 22% Mendocino, and 1% Sonoma County. It was aged for 5 months sur lie with monthly lees stirring in mostly used French and American oak. This wine is made in a widely appealing "house style" so that it will have similar characteristics year after year. Let's see how the 2016 is...

Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2016 (87 pts)

Tasting Note:

KENDALL-JACKSON VINTNER'S RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2016 - California, USA (#369686) (D) - $19.95 $17.95 until
Ripe tropical fruit and melon aromas from the eco-friendly, recyclable plastic cork. Expect ripe fruited aromas of tropical fruit and melon, with whiffs of pineapple, banana and butter of modest intensity. It's a little sweet on the medium-bodied palate, some creaminess, and appealing notes of vanilla, pineapple and tropical fruit flavours with some sweet oak in the background. It has fresh, clean acids and a lingering, juicy finish. Serve with only a light chill. Score: 87 pts


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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  • Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rodney Strong Blending Seminar with Winemaker Rick Sayre

Rodney Strong Blending Seminar

In , I had the pleasure of attending a Blending Seminar with Winemaker Rick Sayre of Rodney Strong Vineyards at Restaurant Bosk inside the Shangri-La Hotel in downtown Toronto. This was my first such experience, so I was honestly very excited to be part of this fascinating event.

After Rick provided a brief introduction of himself and some of the history of Rodney Strong Vineyards, we began with the business of blending wine. Everyone was split into groups of 3, and the task was to recreate the 2013 Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage (pronounced like heritage) red wine by tasting each of the 5 varietals separately before crafting the blend. This process provided a small window into the world of a winemaker because they also go through this process when crafting their wines.

Wine Blending
To offer some help, Rick provide hints during the introduction, such as this wine usually includes at least 60% will be Cabernet Sauvignon, and that Petit Verdot is used in relatively small quantities. We were provided with a cylinder, funnel and pipettes to precisely craft our blend.
Once each group was satisfied with their blend, they submitted their wine to Rick for assessment. Our blend consisted of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. The results were announced shortly thereafter and, based on Rick's comments, it sounded like he enjoyed our wine the most, mentioning that it was very much a Bordeaux style of wine. However, this task was not about creating a Bordeaux style of wine; instead, the task was to create a Californian style of wine, such as the Symmetry. Thus, unfortunately, we did not win the competition, nor the prize that came along with it.

The winning team, oddly enough, consisted of 2 Chefs and a Somm. Congratulations to my friends Chef Eyal Liebman and Sommelière Rebecca Meïr-Liebman of Chef & Somm as they were two-thirds of the winning team! They crafted their blend using 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. The actual blend of the 2013 Symmetry consisted of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 4% Merlot. I was surprised at how much Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc was in the Symmetry, as well as how little Merlot was included.

Winemaker Rick Sayre (second from left) with Winners of Wine Blending Competition Chef Eyal Liebman and Sommelière Rebecca Meïr-Liebman

After the blending seminar, we were invited upstairs for a Reception to taste a few other wines from the Rodney Strong portfolio. Wine reviews of the Symmetry, as well as a few of the other wines tasted are provided below. These wines do show up in LCBO VINTAGES periodically, however, you can also reach out to the Agent, Mark Anthony Group, for your immediate needs.

Tasting Note:

RODNEY STRONG SYMMETRY 2013 - Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (#641142) (XD) - $56.75
Blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 4% Merlot. Medium-high intensity nose should open up further with air, this has pretty floral, bing cherry, sweet vanillan oak and hint of medicinal aromas. It's full-bodied and ripe on the palate with nice aroma replays - sweet vanillan oak and blueberry come to mind. It has structured, grippy tannins and very good acids to allow for long-term ageing. Long, earthy and dark berry finish. Score: 90+

Rodney Strong Symmetry 2013 (90+ pts)

RODNEY STRONG ALEXANDER'S CROWN SINGLE VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (#329961) (XD) - $100
This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is highly aromatic and shows lovely red currant, cassis, evergreen and mint notes. It's full-bodied and firm on the palate with structured tannins, mouth-watering acids and very nice aroma replays. The finish is long and smooth. A powerful wine with finesse that is enjoyable now, but will age gracefully for at least 15 years. Score: 92 pts

Rodney Strong Alexander's Crown Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (92 pts)

RODNEY STRONG ROCKAWAY SINGLE VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (#202507) (XD) - $100.95
Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, with 12% Malbec, 4% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot completing the blend. Medium-high intensity aromas have dark fruit, blackberry, dark currant and oak notes. It's full-bodied with tight tannins on the palate, while showing finesse with dark berry aroma replays, plus leather and integrated oak flavours. It has very good acidity and finishes long. Drinkable now, but better in 3-4 years and should drink well to 2030. Score: 92 pts

Rodney Strong Rockaway Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (92 pts)

RODNEY STRONG BROTHERS RIDGE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (#405209) (XD) - $89.75
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium-high intensity aromatics offer dense, dark fruit, purple fruit, cassis, sweet oak and black plum aromas and flavours in a big package. It's full-bodied with mouth-watering acids and firm, structured tannins that are a bit tight. There's some minerality on the palate and it has a long, earthy finish. Age 3+ years and drink to the mid-2030's. Score: 92 pts

Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (92 pts)


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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  • Wednesday, September 13, 2017

La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2015 (California) - Wine Review

red wine is a sneak preview of a nice Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast that will be in LCBO VINTAGES on .

I had the opportunity to taste (and enjoy) both the 2013 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and 2014 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir last year and have similar expectations for this latest vintage from La Crema. The 2015 vintage was a bit of a challenge in Sonoma County due to the unusually cool weather in April and May, which led to low yields. Having said that, the grapes that were picked were of good quality.

For 2015, the fruit was hand-sorted and gently de-stemmed, with 70% whole berries in tank. Next, the grapes were cold-soaked at 48°F for three days, fermented primarily in open-top tanks and punched down three times per day during active fermentation. Post-fermentation free run was then transferred to tanks for one night of settling before racking to (20%) new and (80%) used French oak barrels, and raised for 9 months.

La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2015 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

LA CREMA SONOMA COAST PINOT NOIR 2015 - Sonoma Coast, California, USA (#719435) (XD) - $29.95
Red cherry and plum aromas from the cork. In this glass, this has medium-high intensity aromas of red cherry, raspberry, sweet tobacco, earth and whiffs of black tea and strawberry. The palate is medium bodied and fleshy with a mixed berry medley of blackberry, cherry, and blueberry flavours layered on top of oak spice notes. Some tea leaf notes on the mid-palate. Succulent acids are fresh and juicy. Fine tannins offer a smooth mouthfeel. Cherry, earth, exotic spice, and tea leaf notes linger on the long finish. I really like the subtle tea leaf note that's found throughout. A fine, balanced wine from a reliable producer to enjoy over the next 3-4 years. Score: 89 pts


Friday, August 4, 2017

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  • Friday, August 4, 2017

La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2015 (California) - Wine Review

wine review is the latest vintage of the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from La Crema Winery. It is being featured as the Wine of the Month in the upcoming LCBO VINTAGES Release.

I enjoyed my visit to La Crema in Sonoma Wine Country last Fall and was very impressed when I had the opportunity to taste the 2014 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay a month later.

In 2015, warmer winter temperatures resulted in earlier bud break, while cooler than average temperatures delayed bloom and led to lower yields compared to the previous three years. Veraison also came early, and a warm, dry summer led to one of the earliest harvests on record for the Sonoma Coast AVA, with harvest beginning by mid-August.

This delicious white wine will be widely available at LCBO outlets across Ontario within a couple of weeks.

La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2015 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

LA CREMA SONOMA COAST CHARDONNAY 2015 - Sonoma Coast, California, USA (#962886) (XD) - $29.95
For 2015, this wine spent 9 months in primarily French oak (some American), 19% of which is new. Tropical fruit and lemon citrus aromas from the cork. It's quite fragrant in the glass with creamy, buttery, lemony, tropical fruit and slightly lactic aromas. The palate is full-bodied and very ripe with pear and butter flavours, along with touches of white peach and woodsmoke. It's creamy with fresh, balanced acidity. The finish is long and bitter with a fine chalky mineral texture. A rich Chardonnay that deserves to be paired with rich seafood dishes or chicken. Score: 89 pts


Friday, May 26, 2017

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  • Friday, May 26, 2017

Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Sonoma) - Wine Review

wine review is a VINTAGES Essentials product - i.e. always available in VINTAGES. However, the 2014 is the latest vintage of this red wine and will be on shelves as part of the upcoming LCBO VINTAGES Release.

This wine is produced by Kendall-Jackson and is the companion to the Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay that I tasted earlier this year. Kendall-Jackson is a family-owned winery based in the heart of Sonoma County and has a commitment to produce quality wines consistently, vintage after vintage, with grapes sourced from multiple appellations which are carefully matched to ideal growing regions, climates, and soil types for each varietal. This Cabernet Sauvignon uses grapes sourced from Sonoma County mountain and hillside vineyards, as well as Mendocino County mountain vineyards.

Randy Ullom is the winemaker for this wine and is celebrating his 25th year working for the Jackson family, playing a vital role in elevating the winery's winemaking program.

Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

KENDALL-JACKSON VINTNER’S RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 - Sonoma County, California, USA (#331603) (XD) - $22.95
Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, but also includes 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Merlot and 1% Malbec, and aged for 10 months in French (55%) and American (31%) oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. Ripe plum, black cherry, and dark currant aromas from the cork. Ripe aromas of blackberry, black cherry, cassis and chocolate of medium intensity in the glass, with much of the same on the flavour profile, plus hints of green pepper. The palate is medium-full bodied and dry with supple, drying tannins that could use a couple of years to soften. Juicy acids. Some graphite/pencil lead flavours arrive mid-palate, finishing with cedar oak notes. Finishes with very good length. Ideal with red meat. Drink over the next 2-3 years. Score: 88 pts


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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  • Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wine Picks LCBO VINTAGES Release May 27, 2017: Southern Italy + Santa Barbara

LCBO Wine Picks from May 27, 2017 VINTAGES Release
The upcoming LCBO VINTAGES Release features wines from 5 sunny Southern Italy hot spots in its main theme, while the mini-theme focuses on wines from Santa Barbara. Wines from this release will be on shelves at LCBO outlets across Ontario this .

We'll begin my top wine picks from this release with the focus on southern Italy because nothing from Santa Barbara made the cut. The hot and sunny wine regions of Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Sicily, and Sardinia are featured, with a total of 12 wines listed and only 2 are included among my top wine picks. From the island of Sicily, there is a nice Grillo, one of the key white wine grapes on the island. One of the major grapes in Campania is Aglianico, and there is a nice little wine for $14 in this release. The last wine from Southern Italy is a Chardonnay from Puglia, and is actually listed near the back the VINTAGES Magazine as a Flagship Store Exclusive (FSE) - with limited availability.

From the rest of the release, the Domaine Guisset is a spicy blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache, while the Black Rock from South Africa is 68% Syrah that was co-fermented with other Rhône varieties to produce this multi-varietal blend. The latest vintage of the Emiliana Coyam is organic & biodynamic and consists of 48% Syrah, 24% Carmenere, 11% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Mourvedre, 3% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. The pair of big Cabernet Sauvignon wines from California are also blends, with the Chateau Montelena including 1.5% Cabernet Franc and 1.5% Petit Verdot, while the La Jota includes one quarter other grapes - 10.5% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4.5% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec.

Emiliana Coyam 2013 (90+ pts)

My white wine recommendations from this release consist of either Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Riesling. As is quite common, Riesling can be produced in styles ranging from bone dry to very sweet. From this release, the Pearl Morissette Riesling is bone dry, while the Hidden Bench Riesling will have a kiss of sweetness to it, and the Waimea Riesling is off-dry (i.e. slight sweet).

Among my sparkling wine picks, the Cava is a blend of Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo, while the vintage Champagne is a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 10% Pinot Meunier.

Enjoy my top wine picks from this release! Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • CAMPOREALE AGLIANICO 2015 - IGP Campania, Italy (#475251) (XD) - $13.95
  • DOMAINE GUISSET 2014 - AP Côtes du Roussillon, Roussillon, France (#480863) (XD) - $15.95
  • CHILCAS RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 - Lolol, Colchagua Valley, Chile (#486050) (XD) - $18.95
  • FABRE MONTMAYOU RESERVA MALBEC 2014 - Mendoza, Argentina (#261867) (XD) - $18.95
  • CONO SUR SINGLE VINEYARD EL RECURSO BLOCK 18 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015 - Maipo Valley, Chile (#439364) (D) - $19.95
  • EMILIANA COYAM 2013 - Los Robles Estate, Colchagua Valley, Chile (#063891) (XD) - $29.95  reviewed here
  • RADFORD DALE BLACK ROCK 2013 - WO Swartland, South Africa (#485490) (XD) - $29.95
  • COSTA DI BUSSIA CAMPO DEI BUOI BAROLO 2010 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#475277) (XD) - $47.95
  • BACHELDER LA PETITE CHARMOTTE NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES 2011 - AC, Burgundy, France (#357228) (XD) - $49.95  FSE
  • CHATEAU MONTELENA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Calistoga, Napa Valley, California, USA (#718452) (XD) - $74.95
  • KISTLER PINOT NOIR 2014 - Sonoma Coast, California, USA (#377259) (XD) - $109.95  FSE
  • LA JOTA HOWELL MOUNTAIN ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#659755) (XD) - $110.95  FSE

White Wine:

  • FEUDO MACCARI GRILLO 2015 - IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy (#477877) (XD) - $14.95
  • RIVERA PRELUDIO NO. 1 CHARDONNAY 2015 - DOC Castel del Monte, Puglia, Italy (#177303) (XD) - $16.00  FSE
  • MAYCAS DEL LIMARÍ RESERVA ESPECIAL CHARDONNAY 2015 - Limarí Valley, Chile (#143768) (XD) - $18.95
  • WAIMEA CLASSIC RIESLING 2016 - Nelson, South Island, New Zealand (#408666) (D) - $18.95
  • PAUL CLUVER SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015 - WO Elgin, South Africa (#483743) (XD) - $19.95
  • HIDDEN BENCH ESTATE RIESLING 2015 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#183491) (D) - $23.95
  • CLOS HENRI SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#675629) (XD) - $29.95
  • PEARL MORISSETTE CUVÉE BLACK BALL RIESLING 2014 - Product of Canada (#416073) (XD) - $36.20  FSE
  • DOMAINE BILLAUD-SIMON LES VAILLONS CHABLIS 1ER CRU 2014 - AC, Burgundy, France (#330175) (XD) - $39.95  FSE
  • KISTLER LES NOISETIERS CHARDONNAY 2015 - Sonoma Coast, California, USA (#251223) (XD) - $99.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • CYGNUS ORGANIC BRUT NATURE RESERVA CAVA - Méthode champenoise, DO Penedès, Spain (#352856) (XD) - $16.95
  • ANDRÉ ET MICHEL DRAPPIER PINOT NOIR BRUT NATURE CHAMPAGNE - Zero dosage, AC, France (#179275) (XD) - $58.95
  • BEAUMONT DES CRAYERES FLEUR DE PRESTIGE CHAMPAGNE 2006 - AC, France (#483099) (D) - $68.95

Fortified:

  • FONSECA LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE PORT 2011 - Unfiltered, DOP, Portugal (#087551) (S) - $22.95


Saturday, March 18, 2017

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  • Saturday, March 18, 2017

Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (California) - Wine Review

wine is a VINTAGES Essential and is always available in the VINTAGES section at the LCBO. This year, this wine celebrates its milestone 25th year as America's number one selling Chardonnay and is also the fastest growing Chardonnay at the LCBO at present.

This white wine is produced by Kendall-Jackson, a winery that has been committed to producing fine wines from grapes grown in California's cool, coastal vineyards for over three decades. The beginnings of this wine were formed in 1974 when Jess Jackson purchased an 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lake County, just north of Napa Valley, and replanted it with Chardonnay grapevines. In 1982, Jess and the family set out to make a premium, yet affordable, California wine, and the first ever case of the Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay was sold a year later in New York City. That same year, a Platinum Award win and some praise from First Lady Nancy Reagan added to the notoriety of this wine, eventually becoming the number one selling Chardonnay in America in 1992.

Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (87 pts)

Tasting Note:

KENDALL-JACKSON VINTNER'S RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2015 - California, USA (#369686) (D) - $19.95
Whole cluster pressed, 95% barrel-fermented and aged sur lie with monthly batonnage (lees stirring) for 7 months in (53%) American and (44%) French oak. Eco-friendly, recyclable plastic cork has light stone fruit and pineapple aromas. Medium+ aromatics offer generous tropical fruit, pineapple, poached apple, sweet vanilla, and buttery tones. The palate is full-ish, soft and rounded with more ripe tropical fruit flavours surrounded by sweet vanilla oak. Acids are light and fresh, with good length on the slightly sweet finish. Easy-drinking with crowd-friendly appeal. Score: 87 pts


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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  • Tuesday, March 14, 2017

VINTAGES Release March 18: California Stars

LCBO Wine Picks from March 18, 2017 VINTAGES Release
The upcoming LCBO VINTAGES on will be on shelves this coming and is a mono-thematic release titled "California Stars" featuring the first-class wines from 16 top producers in California.

From the "California Stars" thematic, 17 wines were featured and 4 are included among my top wine picks. Single-varietal wines include a Sonoma Mountain single vineyard Chardonnay and the Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon. Meanwhile, the dry Zinfandel consists of 85% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignan, and 3% Syrah, and the Merlot usually contains small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to round out the blend.

Among red wines from the rest of the release, there is a pleasant Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Lebanon, while the mature Minervois is a blend of 50% Mourvèdre, 38% Grenache Noir, and 12% Carignan. From Spain, the Cara Nord is a blend of 42% Grenache, 38% Syrah and the little-known (20%) Garrut. From Rhône, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a blend of 43% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 22% Mourvèdre and the rest other varietals, while the Amarone is a blend of 70% Corvina/Corvinone and 30% Rondinella.

In white wines, the Soave is a blend of 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano, while the Côtes du Rhône is primarily Viognier (65%), but also contains 15% Roussanne, 8% Marsanne, 8% Clairette, 2% Bourboulenc, 2% Grenache Blanc. If you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, there are very good options to try side-by-side from South Africa, Loire, and a barrel-fermented and oak-aged version from New Zealand. Furthermore, the Bordeaux white is a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon.

Jean-Max Roger Cuvée Genèse Sancerre 2015 (91 pts)Spy Valley Envoy Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (91 pts)

There are two lovely Champagnes in this release, with the Gimonnet made with 100% Chardonnay, while the Bollinger is 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier.

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this release! Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • CHATEAU KSARA CLOS ST. ALPHONSE SYRAH/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (#465955) (XD) - $13.95
  • CHATEAU DE SÉRAME MINERVOIS 2010 - AC, South of France (#480889) (XD) - $16.95
  • ANIELLO 006 MERLOT 2014 - Patagonia, Argentina (#480731) (XD) - $17.95  reviewed here
  • CARA NORD RED 2014 - DO Conca De Barberà, Spain (#418186) (XD) - $18.95
  • STELLENRUST PEPPERGRINDER’S SHIRAZ 2012 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#455899) (XD) - $19.95
  • SEGHESIO SONOMA ZINFANDEL 2015 - Sonoma County, California, USA (#942151) (XD) - $29.95
  • STAGS’ LEAP WINERY MERLOT 2013 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#655399) (D) - $39.95
  • CHÂTEAU LA NERTHE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2013 - AC, Rhône, France (#735407) (XD) - $52.95
  • SANTA SOFIA AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2009 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#713669) (D) - $54.95  FSE
  • TWO HANDS SAMANTHA’S GARDEN SHIRAZ 2014 - Clare Valley, South Australia (#067355) (D) - $73.95  FSE
  • HEITZ CELLAR CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#642124) (XD) - $94.95
Aniello 006 Merlot 2014 (89 pts)

White Wine:

  • RUSTENBERG STELLENBOSCH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#456020) (XD) - $14.95
  • PUKLUS PINCÉSZET TOKAJI SEMI-SWEET YELLOW MUSCAT 2015 - Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary (#046508) (M) - $16.95
  • PIEROPAN SOAVE CLASSICO 2015 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#946848) (XD) - $18.95
  • DASHWOOD CHARDONNAY 2015 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#312942) (XD) - $19.95
  • E. GUIGAL CÔTES DU RHÔNE BLANC 2015 - AC, Rhône, France (#290296) (XD) - $19.95
  • 2027 WISMER VINEYARD FOX CROFT BLOCK CHARDONNAY 2014 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#421362) (XD) - $22.95  reviewed here
  • LE G DE CHÂTEAU GUIRAUD 2015 - AC, Bordeaux, France (#488585) (XD) - $26.95  FSE
  • JEAN-MAX ROGER CUVÉE GENÈSE SANCERRE 2015 - AC, Loire, France (#189126) (XD) - $27.95  reviewed here
  • SPY VALLEY ENVOY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014 - Johnson Vineyard, Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#429308) (XD) - $29.95  reviewed here
  • KISTLER MCCREA VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2014 - Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California, USA (#353706) (XD) - $129.95
2027 Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2014 (90 pts)

Sparkling Wine:

  • PIERRE GIMONNET CUVÉE FLEURON 1ER CRU BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2009 - AC, France (#340133) (XD) - $72.95
  • BOLLINGER SPECIAL CUVÉE BRUT CHAMPAGNE - AC, France (#384529) (XD) - $78.95

Dessert Wine:

  • CAVE SPRING INDIAN SUMMER SELECT LATE HARVEST RIESLING 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#415901) (S) (375 mL) - $24.95


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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  • Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Wine Tasting in Sonoma 2016

Stonestreet Wine Tasting
Back in , I had the pleasure of visiting Sonoma Wine Country for the very first time. This wine region has been on my radar for a while now, especially after the disappointment of not being able to visit Sonoma during my visit to nearby Napa Valley in 2012. After conducting various online searches and getting recommendations from friends of friends who had been to Sonoma previously, I settled on visiting 4 wineries, two of which who were new to me.

Sonoma County is quite a large and diverse wine region - also bigger than Napa Valley - comprising of various topographies, microclimates, and soil types. Almost 60,000 acres are planted with grapes, with the majority planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon - the 3 grapes I was most looking forward to tasting on this trip.

The view from Stonestreet Wines
The first stop was the furthest - about 1.5 hours north of home base (Concord) - and located within the Alexander Valley AVA, just west of the town of Healdsburg. Stonestreet Estate Vineyards is known for their premium, high-quality Mountain Vineyard wines. I tasted a few of their wines over the years back home in Toronto and was thoroughly impressed, thus increasing my desire to the visit the winery. It was founded by Jess Stonestreet Jackson (of Jackson Family Wines) and Barbara Banke in 1995 and has since been passed on to their son Christopher Jackson and his wife Ariel. As we tasted through the lineup, we were told that the grapes for the wines came from the mountain seen in the far distance between the two mountains in the fore (pictured above/left). There is a very cool digital mountain map on their website that shows where each of their vineyards are located on the mountain. It would have been very cool to go to the vineyards to get a closer look - perhaps on my next visit? Nevertheless, the wines here are excellent!

Holdredge Red Barn
The next stop, as we made our way back to home base, was Holdredge Wines - a small, family winery located within the town of Healdsburg. It was chosen based on a recommendation from a friend of a friend, and also on the fact that these wines aren't available in Ontario. The winery exists in a red barn that dates back to the late 1800s and has a long, rich history of continuous use, including during prohibition! The husband and wife team of John and Carri Holdredge (unfortunately didn't get to meet either of them) formed the winery back in 2001 with the intention of making what they knew best - Zinfandel and Syrah. However, that same year, renowned grower Saralee Kunde offered to sell some Pinot Noir to John and the wine took off. Today, Holdredge Wines now works with 14 different Pinot Vineyards all over Sonoma County - and no Zinfandel or Syrah. The wines are produced in a minimal interventionist style and I managed to taste through 6 Pinots - each sourced from a different vineyard - and there wasn't a bad wine in the group. I enjoyed all of them and am somewhat regretting the fact that I didn't pick up a bottle or two to bring to home as they offered relatively good value.

Holdredge Wine Lineup

Holdredge Winery

Inman Family Wines
Our third stop of the day was in the heart of the Russian River Valley at Inman Family Wines. The same fellow that recommended Holdredge Wines also recommended this small, family winery. The Inman story begins in the year 2000, when the Inman Family planted seven+ acres of Pinot Noir, and a patch of Pinot Gris on their ten-acre Olivet Grange property on Olivet Road. Winemaker Kathleen Inman's love for gardening began as a child and continues to this day, and in our brief conversation showed a lot passion and enthusiasm for her wines. The winery is committed to employing environmentally responsible, sustainable farming practices and using natural winemaking techniques. The organic fertilizers used in the vineyard are nutrient-rich and named "Four-Course Compost" because it is derived from the table scraps of high-end San Francisco restaurants. Production is small, with only 5,000 cases produced, and every wine is capped under Stelvin screw cap. We sat outside on the patio and tasted through quite a few wines, with reviews of my favourites - all single vineyard Pinot Noir - provided below. Unfortunately, these quality wines are also not available in Ontario.

La Crema Estate at Saralee's Vineyard
The final stop of the day was a short drive away to La Crema Winery. The winery was founded in 1979, but in June 2016 they opened up their new estate at Saralee's Vineyard. The centrepiece is the visitor experience centre sits in an historic barn that dates back to 1900 and sits on a knoll overlooking the storied Saralee's Vineyard. It was a bit chilly and windy outdoors, so we opted for only a tour of the building. Originally a hop barn, it later became the family home of Richard and Saralee Kunde, and thus felt very warm, cozy and inviting. This is a place where you can come visit, lose sense of time, and easily spend a whole afternoon tasting the many different wines on offer. We ended up spending the most time here as there were many delicious wines to taste, but also because we got quite comfortable and found it difficult to leave. Reviews of some of my favourite La Crema wines are posted below.

Inside La Crema Estate at Saralee's Vineyard

Group Photo

Overall, I was very pleased with my first ever visit to Sonoma County. Quite often we'll see single vineyard bottles, but never get to the see the vineyard itself because it's somewhere off-property that's relatively inaccessible. One thing I really appreciated as we drove along was that there were signs at every vineyard indicating the name of that vineyard, some names which I actually recognized. To see a vineyard name on a bottle, and then be able to see the vineyard with your own eyes was quite satisfying and visualized the sense of place.

I would've preferred to visit a couple of more wineries, but the 425+ wineries in Sonoma County are widely scattered across this large region. As such, it is somewhat difficult to cover many wineries in a single day. Another trip (or five) to this region is most definitely required to fully appreciate the wines from this area, including visiting the many small, family-run houses whose wines aren't available in Ontario.

And lastly, I was very satisfied with the quality of the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir I tasted on this visit. I was especially impressed with the Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, as well as the mountain vineyard Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons. If you wish to acquire any of these wines, please contact the agent in Ontario (B&W Wines) for availability and ordering of Stonestreet and La Crema wines. To order Holdredge and Inman Family wines, please contact the winery directly, or better yet - go visit them in Sonoma County in person!

Tasting Notes:

STONESTREET COUGAR RIDGE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2013 - Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (D) - $55
From south-facing vineyards at an elevation of 850 feet. The nose is a bit shy, but has hints of apple, golden pear, butter, sweet vanilla and hints of pineapple. It's fairly light-weighted with fresh, crisp, balanced and very nice, ripe-fruited aroma replays showing a touch of sweetness. Nicely balanced, with hints of butterscotch, toffee, and caramel on the long finish. Score: 90 pts

Stonestreet Cougar Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 (90 pts)Stonestreet Upper Barn Chardonnay 2013 (92 pts)

STONESTREET UPPER BARN CHARDONNAY 2013 - Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (#253542) (XD) - $90
From vines planted in 1973 at an elevation between 1,600 - 1,800 feet, this also initially had a closed that hinted at light green apple, minerals, vanilla, and butter. It really started to open up with time in the glass. Medium-bodied with balanced acids and flavours of pineapple, pear, and subtle oak spice. A delicate and elegant wine with touches of butter and vanilla notes on the long finish. Score: 92 pts

STONESTREET BEAR POINT VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (XD) - $60
Sourced from vines at an elevation between 1,000 - 1,200 feet, this has a very lifted fruit-forward nose of dark cherry, blackberry and sweet cedar oak spices adding complexity. It's full-bodied with appealing currant, cassis, blackberry, black cherry, and sweet oak spice flavours. Acids are fresh, while the ripe, refined tannins provide support, handling the 14.5% abv well. There's very good depth of fruit. Excellent length on the finish with a fine mineral streak. Score: 91 pts

Stonestreet Bear Point Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (91 pts)Stonestreet Rockfall Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (93 pts)

STONESTREET ROCKFALL VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (#249367) (XD) - $100
From vines at 2,200 feet above sea level and above the fog line, this warmer site has produced a Cab that's highly aromatic that's earthy and terroir-driven profile, backed by black cherry, blackberry, and dark currant notes. It's full-bodied with firm tannins and nicely balanced, complex aroma replays. Acids are mouth-watering, while the finish length is excellent and offers currant and hints of mint and cassis flavours. Still a bit tight and should be better in 2-3 and enjoy over the next decade or two. Score: 93 pts

HOLDREDGE "SHAKEN NOT STIRRED" PINOT NOIR 2013 - Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (XD) - $45
Made from only the Martini clone from Saralee's Vineyard, this offers a lovely complex bouquet of cherry, cola, black tea, black cherry and some earthy aromas of medium-to-high intensity. It's light-weighted with refined tannins with appealing fruit-forward aroma replays along with some earthy spice notes. Acids are bright and refreshing, while the finish length is excellent. Score: 91 pts

Holdredge "Shaken Not Stirred" Pinot Noir 2013 (91 pts)Holdredge "The True" Pinot Noir 2014 (91+ pts)

HOLDREDGE "THE TRUE" PINOT NOIR 2014 - Sonoma Coast, California, USA (XD) - $50
The grapes for this wine are from a single-vineyard in Annapolis, in northern Sonoma. Highly aromatic with lovely floral, black tea, cherry and mineral nose. It's medium-bodied with very nice aroma replays on the palate supported by good tannic structure and crisp, fresh acids. Excellent finish length. Drinking well now, but will improve in 3-4 years. Score: 91+ pts

HOLDREDGE "JUDGMENT TREE" PINOT NOIR 2013 - Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (XD) - $70
From the Rochioli Vineyard, 5 miles south of the winery, this has clean, well-balanced and complex aromas of black tea, cherry, earth and sweet spice aromas. It is medium-bodied on the palate with racy acids, fine tannic structure, and very nice aroma replays. Harmonious and showing plenty of finesse, while also having juicy acids and a long-lasting finish. Highly drinkable now, but should improve further over the coming 5 years. Score: 92 pts

Holdredge "Judgment Tree" Pinot Noir 2013 (92 pts)

INMAN FAMILY SEXTON ROAD RANCH PINOT NOIR 2013 - Sonoma Coast, California, USA (XD) - $68
The nose is medium-to-high intensity and features lovely ripe fruited cherry, earth and spice aromas. It's medium-bodied with integrated, crunchy tannins and a flavour profile that continues from the aromas, joined by compelling incense flavours. It has juicy acids and finishes long with exotic spice notes. Score: 90 pts

Inman Family Sexton Road Ranch Pinot Noir 2013 (90 pts)Inman Family Thorn Ridge Ranch Pinot Noir 2012 (90+ pts)

INMAN FAMILY THORN RIDGE RANCH PINOT NOIR 2012 - Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (XD) - $68
Medium-high intensity nose offers lovely black tea, earth, dark cherry, and blackberry aromas. The palate is medium-bodied with very nice, well-balanced aroma replays, and tannins that are a touch chalky. Nicely spiced mid-palate. The finish is a touch on the sweet side, showing some mature dried fruit/floral characters. Lovely stuff. Score: 90+ pts

INMAN FAMILY OGV ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2013 - Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (XD) - $73
The medium-high intensity nose has appealing aromas of cherry, sweet spice, and some dried cherry and floral aromas. It's medium-bodied with refined tannins providing an elegantly structured mouthfeel and very pleasing aroma replays. Balanced acids. Nice wood spice notes linger on the long finish. Drinkable now or age at least 3 years and drink to 2024. Score: 92 pts

Inman Family OGV Estate Pinot Noir 2013 (92 pts)

LA CREMA SARALEE'S VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2013 - Russian River Valley, California, USA (XD) - $50
Aged in a mix of new and used French oak for 9 months, this has complex medium-high intensity aromas of bing cherry, earth, cola, white pepper and mushroom. The palate is medium-bodied with gritty tannins, fresh acids and nice earthy aroma replays along with hints of dark cherry. Fine finish length. Score: 89 pts

La Crema Saralee's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 (89 pts)La Crema Fog Veil Pinot Noir 2013 (89 pts)

LA CREMA FOG VEIL PINOT NOIR 2013 - Russian River Valley, California, USA (XD) - $50
Sourced from a vineyard located in the Santa Rosa Plains, this has medium-high intensity aromas of tea leaves, red cherry and plum. On the light-to-medium bodied palate, it has flavours of dark berry, cherry, black plum and subtle oak spice. It has balanced acids, refined tannins, and a long, spiced finish. Score: 89 pts

LA CREMA CHEHALEM MOUNTAINS PINOT NOIR 2012 - Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (XD) - $45
Medium-high aromatics offer pretty hibiscus flower, tea leaves, red cherry and more exotic floral notes. It's light-weighted with lovely floral aroma replays. Acids are balanced and crunchy tannins are well-integrated. The finish is long with hints of dried fruit. Score: 90 pts

La Crema Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir 2012 (90 pts)

All prices in this post are the local price in Sonoma in USD.


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